Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Conducting successful interviews

I recently posted about conducting my first phone interview. Although I've done interviews before, my posts about the interview and my voice recorder combo inspired me to also write a post with tips for conducting a successful interview.

1. Do your research. Don't expect to get every little bit of information from your interviewee. Find the background information yourself. You can verify the accuracy of your information during the interview, of course, but I find that I am more comfortable with the interviewee and the topic if I've looked it up beforehand.

2. Prepare your questions ahead of time. This is another good reason to do your research before the interview — you need to know what are good questions to ask. Make a list of questions — I usually write 6-8 questions — and have them in front of you during the interview.

3. Test your equipment ahead of time. Get together your voice recorder, digital camera, and any other equipment you plan to use during your interview. Check your remaining battery power, and replace the batteries if they are low. It might also be wise to have extra batteries on hand, just in case the gadget lied to you about how much power was left.

If it's been a while since you used your recorder, play with it a little to refresh your memory. Also do a test run to make sure that it actually records when it says its recording, and that any adapters — such as a cell phone adapter — will do what you need them to do.

4. Be spontaneous. Your list of questions is there primarily to help you if you get stuck, so other than checking it occasionally to make sure you're still on track, try to ignore it as much as possible. If you can relax and enjoy the conversation, you'll get more information and better quotes — not to mention you'll leave the interview feeling really good about how it went!

No matter how many interviews I've done, I'm always a little nervous beforehand. However, I often find that the better prepared I am, the easier it is to relax and enjoy the conversation with my interviewee. I'm not saying that doing these things will make you lose your anxiety altogether, but it'll certainly help!

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